In the the cellar of Florian and Mathilde Beck-Hartweg, 19 HL of Tout Naturellement. Cover photo by Benoit Cortet.
The Spring BLOG
A few members of the family assembled at the Back In Alsace H.Q. at the end of March. The approach is like the Mount Everest base camps, where you get used to the increasing high altitudes before making the move to the summit. We were getting things set up, acclimatising and preparing, before a permanent relocation back to Alsace in the summer.
Just after we arrived, France went back into another Covid lockdown and this seriously impacted our visits schedule. That lockdown entailed a restriction in movement to a 10 km radius of your house.
To whet your interest, we did get out on the road and made stops at Clément and Sylvain Goepp’s in Heiligenstein, Yannick Meckert in Rosheim, Philippe Brand in Ergersheim, Guillaume Edel in Ergersheim, Pierre Weber in Husseren-Les-Châteaux, the Lissner domaine with Bruno and Théo Schloegel in Wolxhein and Gerard Blaes in Marlenheim. On top of that eclectic bunch, we also had a stopover coffee and wine pick up at Patrick Meyers in Nothalten, though most of the visit was spent at the kitchen table discussing bees and honey with Mireille Meyer. Another stopover, really a pitstop, was at Christophe Lindenlaub’s in Dorlisheim to grab some 2019 wines and check in with Zoe, the adorable Zoe.
Oh, and we ended up in downtown Mittelbergheim with a morning at Jean-Pierre Rietsch’s and the afternoon at Lucas Rieffel’s.
A single visit to Strasbourg was slotted in, with catch up’s at two of our favourite wineshops on the planet. It’s always refreshing and informative to have a bout of tonic dialogue and the usual dialectics with Jean Walch at Au Fil du Vin Libre on the Quai des Bateliers. Then, just three minutes walk round the corner and you end up at Oenosphere, where Benoit Hecker provides a zen steadiness to the fact based enthusiasm of his staff. The proximity of this wonderfulness makes you think of the cluster of winemakers on Mittelbergheim main street. So much fascinating quality in such a small space.
First up, Heiligenstein and Rosheim
The theme of the first day out was definitely Heiligenstein. Visit number one was at the brothers Goepp, on rue de la Montagne, where Clément and Sylvain took over running the domain in 2019. Clément then joined in the visit to Yannick Meckert’s cellar in nearby Rosheim, where Yannick is newly installed since the 2020 harvest. Yannick is from Heiligenstein so that kept this village theme thing going. That’s Yannick and Clément doing their Heiligenstein hug, down at centre bottom
Check the Rosheim main street sign on the grid, bottom left. Directions, official directions to Jean-Marc Dreyer’s place. Putting Rosheim on the world wine map, as we like to shout about.
The Goepp domain runs to 11.2 hectares and around 15,000 bottles were produced last year, with a target of 25,000 on the horizon. The vineyards range from Heiligenstein down to Barr, where a patchwork of Riesling and Gewurztraminer parcelles make up two hectares on the Kirchberg de Barr, Grand Cru. Some of the topnotch fruit finds its way to the Auvergne and into the cellar of Patrick Bouju. Keep your eye out for cuvée R from Patrick. Also, a 2019 Tutti Frutti for Les Vins Pirouettes was just finishing up in a foudre and heading for the bottle this spring. This is a 50/50 Gewurztraminer/Pinot Gris mix, with maximum buvabilitie and freshness after 18 months reposing in ancient wood. Back in Alsace will profile the domain in the summer with some emphasis on the Savagnin Rose, Klevener de Heiligenstein niche variety. The 2020 Klevener maceration tasted from the foudre, was gold and clear, dry with good weight, with a lovely complexity of yeasty fruits and a long flinty tram to finish off. That flinty tram, pierre à fusil in french, is typical for the Klevener de Heiligenstein wines.
Yannick Meckert homed in on a facility in Rosheim for the 2020 harvest. With around 18,000 bottles scheduled from the range of foudres and barrels this is a great start, for a start up. Yannick is super independent in his approach, apart from the usual influences in the near vicinity, like Patrick Meyer for instance. He is sourcing his fruit from around Rosheim and down to the mountain vineyards in Reichsfeld. A new initiative just kicked off with some parcelles down in Burgundy. That will be, grown in Burgundy made in Alsace. We plan to profile the domain once we get based Back in Alsace (permanently) from this summer. Yannick brings a big slice of experience back to Alsace, from stints doing wine director restaurant work in Copenhagen, travelling and working on domains in South America, Austria and France of course, where he did a wine making internship with Philippe Pacalet in Burgundy. The range of wines are well thought out with a super serious approach. The Gewurtztraminer maceration from Bernardville’s calcaire soils had these tints of faded roses running into fresh and light tropical fruits. The Pinot Noir from up on the Sollenberg in Reichsfeld is a wine that will develop. From the barrel it had deep griotte cherry tones and was definitely a bit smoky and peppery, but with that edgy quality you get from the Reichsfeld lieux-dites. Bottling for several of Yannick’s wines is going on right now and we plan to visit again in the summer.
And, dropping in at the Goepp’s to pick up some wine a few days later, we ran into the formidable team from Strasbourg’s Cafe des Sports wine bar. Let out for the day on professional tasting business. They were kept in check by the Brothers Goepp, Clément on the left and Sylvain on the right.
Next up, Ergersheim
With a 10 km Covid lockdown movement restriction from base camp, Ergersheim was just a piece of cake at 9.5 km on the scenic cycle path. We stopped in at Philippe Brand’s on a hectic labelling day, where Guillaume Edel from the Vins Edel Clauss was part of the gang making it all happen. Two days later we went to visit Guillaume.
This was our first visit to Vins Edel Clauss and Guillaume immediately suggested we go and visit the vineyards, where we started in a parcelle of mature Gewurtztraminer (photo top left below). Here was a good example of how the widespread frosts the week before had minimal impact on the late starting season in Alsace. Almost no bud growth, with nothing really going on that could be damaged.
The domain consists of five hectares of vineyards, with a scattering of parcelles around Ergersheim, Wolxheim and on the Bruderthal Grand Cru. Long term minimal intervention in the vineyard, with little or no chemical treatments for several years, provided a good foundation for conversion to organic certification which will happen this year. After taking over the winemaking from his father in 2019, Guillaume got going with the natural wine approach with some influence from Philippe Brand from the same village. Four cuvées were produced in 2019 and the 2020 wines will enlarge the range and this includes a Sylvaner maceration from the Bruderthal. We tasted the 2019’s from the (unlabelled) bottles and the 2020’s from the cuve. Guillaume’s dad joined us for the tasting in the courtyard and provided some strong Alsace opinions, but he was generally (and genuinely) open and supportive to the new direction for the domaine.
Guillaume has jumped into a project with SOMA Wines in Berlin, which includes a collaboration with the LOK6 restaurant. This sort of initiative is dear to our hearts, where winemakers caring for the land make this connection with edgy urban centres. Ergersheim to Berlin, wine gardens to urbanism.
More to come on the domaine later this year. The Sylvaner maceration was a treat. Guillaume explained with 20 days of maceration it went through a fairly rapid fermentation including malolactic. After fermentation, the next step was to settle in an ancient foudre. No idea when bottling might happen as there is still interesting development going on. The wine was dry with a nice weight and roundness, with hints of quince paste and ripe pears, characteristics that we often pick up in these natural wine Sylvaner’s. .
The new labels had just arrived for the naked bottles.
Next stop, Husseren-les-Châteaux
Husseren-les-Châteaux is a small wine village sitting backed up to the Vosges Forest on its west. The village sits above the Eichberg and the Pfersigberg grand crus. This is Bruno Schueller’s village and a handful of other Schueller winemakers are also located here.
We were “down south” picking up a box of young vines at the pepinnieriste Hebinger in Wettolsheim and we made the jump up the hill to visit Husseren-les-Châteaux. This time we were not heading to Bruno Schueller’s, but to Pierre Weber’s, newly returned to Alsace to take charge of the family domain with his first wines made at the 2020 harvest.
The domaine runs to four hectares and Pierre is currently making wine from three. The whole operation is well planned in a modern way, sitting in the context of an ancient small village, high up in the Alsace vineyards. The 2020 cuvées have a great marketing simplicity: the L (Les), the 3 (trois), the C (Chateaux) and the Pen Nat (with the three chateaux illustration). The real three medieval chateaux, sit high above in the forest dominating the village.
The L is 100% Riesling, the 3 100% Gewurztraminer from the Eichberg, the C is 100% Pinot Noir from the Eichberg and the Pet Nat 33%/33%/33% Chardonnay/Sylvaner/Auxerrois. Wines of a certain substance and fraicheur, aspects that come from the altitude and the cool summer nights. That altitude also brings the keenest acidity, present here in the domaine wines, just as they are present in the wines from the Gang of Four member on the other side of the village.
The L got a mention in a piece in the latest edition of the quarterly Noble Rot magazine, where all sorts of heavy duty sommeliers and wine-smart people were nominating some of their favourite wines to get a cellar going. Marco Pelletier from Vantre Restaurant in Paris, gave the Weber L Riesling the nod.
BTW – that’s the Back in Alsace president (bottom right) , helping herself to some thirst quenching Pat Nat direct from the cuve.
More information on this néovigneron when we do the domain profile.
March – Spring in Alsace
Still stuck in the Sierra Foothills in northern California, but heading to Alsace mid month, with the “family” arriving at different times. Gathering of the clan under the current difficult situation.
Cannot wait to get through the Covid quarantine rules and have a wander around Strasbourg and start some winemaker visits. We have a serious list set up.
It will be very much be Back in Alsace, with an attitude Lost in Alsace through March and April. A key configuration we want to keep is “inside looking in, inside looking out and outside looking in.” The best way to keep the finger on the Alsace natural wine pulse.
Winter Is Here
And this is our beautiful clear space for the 2021 BLOG……….
Already February and the promise of making January productive on Back In Alsace just vanished.
But coming up we plan to discuss, rant and rave, and explain on a multiple of subjects:
- The 2021 natural wine salons planned in Alsace
- Another new wave of natural wine winemakers in Alsace
- An update and opinions on the Syndicat de Defense de Vins Nature
- Whats going on with the Association des Vins Libres d’Alsace
- Whats going on with exports around Brexit and USA tarifs
- Our own journey back to being Alsace residents
Follow us on Instagram where we post every day.
– the project –
The Lost In Alsace Project is focused on two main areas; providing a platform for “les vignerons artisans d’Alsace” and secondly, a follow up and reporting of the major events, twists and turns and initiatives that shape what matters with Alsace wine today. As with any “old world” wine region, there are plenty of issues, degrees of bull-shit, and bad attitudes stuck in the industrial agricultural recent past. We will be giving all that sort of stuff a body swerve as we firmly focus on all that vibrant, forward looking, energy that is currently buzzing in the region.
We are big supporters of producers who practice organic or biodynamic husbandry in the vineyards. Vignerons who are looking after the earth. In fact, that is the foundation of our interest. And we love winemakers that carry this attitude through to techniques in the cellar; with natural fermentations, the use of traditional and non-traumatising physical methods, and a healthy disrespect for the use of additives. These are the foundations that allow winemakers the opportunity to express a sense of terroir, a sense of wine that comes from a place, from a time with the input of human skills and attitudes. With a lot of attitude. That takes us into a space where we are mainly focused on, what can loosely be termed, natural wine.
And there is more to it than that, as the Lost in Alsace Project is interested in the community around natural wine; the winemakers, the producer associations, the retail outlets, the wine bars and restaurants, the importers, the distributors, the journalists, the authors, the publishers, the barrel makers, the artists doing labels and posters, the wine fairs and salons, the team at RAISIN, and most importantly all the workers involved in making this all whirr and rattle along. And, of course the humble masses who buy and drink the stuff.
Three shades of red from Lucas Rieffel – captured by Mona Neilson – website here